A week after the current crisis in Gaza began, USyd academic Jake Lynch won a striking victory in the Federal Court against Israeli legal group Shurat HaDin in defence of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement.
The renowned ‘lawfare’ group had accused Lynch of breaching the Racial Discrimination Act after he refused to sponsor the fellowship application of an Israeli academic last year.
Despite its legal and political significance, the end of the case was barely discussed in the mainstream media. The Fairfax press didn’t even publish a report on the outcome, which, if nothing else, was a significant “win for political freedom”, as Lynch himself described it to Honi.
Alongside the often-poor coverage of the most recent conflict in Gaza, the lack of serious editorial discussion of Australian government policy on Israel and Palestine is reflective of a chronic indifference to the issue in Australian political discourse.
The US government’s complicity in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories is well documented, and has once again been brought into plain view during the current crisis.
On the same day Israel commenced its ground invasion of Gaza, the US Senate voted unanimously in support of Israel’s “right to defend itself”, a line that has been repeated ad nauseam by Barack Obama, John Kerry, and a host of other senior politicians. This is despite only 42 per cent of Americans thinking Israel’s actions are justified and 39 per cent considering them unjustified, according to recent polling from Gallup.
Although focus on the US government’s support for Israel is important, it’s easy to forget that Australia is also among just a handful of nations in the UN that deny the illegality of Israeli settlements in the West Bank and refuse to accept that the Geneva Convention applies to Israel’s military activities in the occupied territories.
George Brandis’ recent claim that describing East Jerusalem as ‘occupied’ is “freighted with pejorative implications” and “neither appropriate nor useful,” underscores the Australian government’s increasingly extreme position: East Jerusalem is widely considered to be occupied under international law.
And yet, the volume of dissent in mainstream Australian discourse against the near-bipartisan consensus on the conflict rarely gets above a murmur. In the US, there is currently an active debate occurring around BDS, which aims to non-violently pressure Israel to end the occupation. The debate has extended to established mainstream outlets like The New York Times and The Washington Post, and has arguably begun to shift public opinion.
How can it be that during a huge escalation of the conflict in Gaza, much of the Australian media is incapable of even prioritising it as news? Fairfax, for example, has consistently buried important news on the conflict on its websites and in its papers.
The Australian media and public may see themselves as detached from the Israel-Palestine conflict, but Australian governments both Labor and Liberal have increasingly positioned us as one of Israel’s staunchest allies. If the conversation doesn’t change now, when will it?